Opinion

Vi Waln: Water protector camps overflow with spiritual energy






Tribal flags at the #NoDAPL encampment in North Dakota. Photo by Joe Brusky

Protector Camps Are Full Of Spirituality
By Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times Columnist
www.lakotacountrytimes.com

Oceti Sakowin Camp, located just north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, is a place we all must visit. There have been many great photos, stories and video clips from this camp shared on social media sites. People who use social media and cannot travel to visit the camp in person, do appreciate all the shared photos and videos.

Certainly, a vicarious experience of what the camp is like can be had by viewing social media updates. Yet, unless you’ve actually visited the camp, you haven’t felt the level of spiritual energy present there. There’s a huge difference between viewing events online and being physically present to participate in living history.

In the movement to protect humanity’s Water of Life against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), there are several camps established in North Dakota. Sacred Stone was the initial camp founded by Standing Rock tribal citizens last April. This camp is located on tribal land near the community of Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Another camp was also established on Standing Rock tribal land. This camp is adjacent to the Cannonball River on the south side. This area is referred to as the Sicangu Spirit Camp, dubbed as such by the Rosebud tribal citizens staying there.

A group of concerned folks recently formed the Sacred Ground camp, located north of Oceti Sakowin. This camp was established after DAPL workers bulldozed an area said to contain cultural artifacts. The people staying in that area are camped in the ditch off Highway 1806.

The Oceti Sakowin camp is the largest. It is located on federal land managed by the US Army Corp of Engineers. This camp is on the north side of the Cannonball River.

The Red Warrior Camp is also located in this area. When viewing photos on Facebook, the Oceti Sakowin camp can be distinguished by the many flags posted along the entryway. These flags represent nations from all across Mother Earth.

Consequently, a camp of this size doesn’t exist without problems. Yet, I didn’t visit the Oceti Sakowin camp to focus on politics and drama. There is enough of that happening on my reservation already. I went to Standing Rock with the intent to pray for humanity’s Water of Life.

The level of spirituality present at the Oceti Sakowin camp was made evident within the first hour I was there. Helicopters fly over the camps on a daily basis. It’s extremely annoying to everyone. In fact, I learned that at least one of those helicopters was allegedly flying in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

A helicopter appeared in the sky shortly after I arrived. Looking at pictures of helicopters on Facebook is totally different than seeing them in person. Yet, soon after I looked up to see the low flying helicopter pass over the camp, I also watched an eagle gracefully fly over. The mere act of that eagle flying over the camp right after the helicopter did, dissipated all the negative energy I felt the aircraft bring. I was amazed at the level of spiritual energy I witnessed in that one moment.

I was also fortunate to witness prayers from a group of Aztec dancers who visited the camp. Donned in full regalia, the group took the time to make their rounds dancing throughout the camping area. They completed their ceremony at the main public gathering area near the entrance. We happened to be on the road as the group moved toward the main area. The spiritual energy of their powerful songs, prayer and dance was very intense. The only way to describe it is to say it nearly knocked me over.

We also witnessed the arrival of the Oglala Lakota youth runners and horseback riders from Pine Ridge, who came in support of the No DAPL movement. The energy they brought was just as powerful as that of the Aztec dancers. That is, as we stood at the big drum singing the prayer songs, I experienced the same type of sacred energy I feel at sun dance. It was amazing.

Also, my Native American Church relatives from Rosebud sponsored a prayer service while I was there. We offered prayers and spiritual food at the river following the ceremony. I truly appreciate the good intentions of my relatives in sponsoring this ceremony for the Water of Life.


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Unfortunately, the recent news of the US Court of Appeals ruling against Standing Rock’s request for an injunction to stop DAPL construction seemed to be a setback for all Water of Life protectors. Still, we have to keep praying for our Mni Wiconi. Our faith in the power of our prayers can help turn things toward the good in ways we may not expect.

I encourage you all to go visit the camps. Even if you stop in for a few hours, you won’t regret it. If you can’t make the trip to Standing Rock, please keep the human beings who are there in your prayers as they prepare for winter.

Pray every single day for our Water of Life. Our coming generations are depending on us to guarantee their access to clean drinking water. Mitakuye Oyasin.

(Vi Waln is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and is a nationally published journalist.)

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